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Reflections on NS Offshore Drilling: Worth the Risk? tour last week

Last week was an intense whirlwind of travelling through snowstorms on Nova Scotia’s beautiful South Shore to attend meetings and public events, along the way taking in an overwhelming amount of knowledge and information about what the offshore oil industry could mean for our province, with a focus on what is at risk.

Antonia Juhasz joined us from San Francisco to share what she uncovered about big oil and particularly BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. From her investigative journalists’ perspective, she had worked to uncover details through personal interviews of people who survived the disaster, through intense research of the company’s history, and through connections made at an academic level to others with knowledge of legislation, etc. Her understanding of this company and the world of oil and gas and how it operates was invaluable.

Colin Sproul, as a 5th generation fisherman and representative of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association, often framed his participation as arguing for an industry (fisheries) as opposed to arguing against one (offshore oil and gas). His knowledge and understanding of the fishery and protected areas goes beyond the Bay of Fundy and with some support from John Davis, a former fisherman and chair of the Clean Ocean Action Committee (COAC, a fishermen’s association), had an abundance of knowledge on the Scotian shelf, George’s Bank, spawning ground at the Roseway Basin – all of which would be covered in oil if a catastrophic spill were to occur.

Colin Sproul addresses the crowd in Halifax while Antonia and Michelle look on.

The third speaker was different for Halifax – Michelle Paul, a Mi’kmaw water protector and treaty rights holder – than the events in Shelburne and Lunenburg. While we were thrilled to have Peter Puxley speak at the latter two events (he comes to us as a member of the Campaign to Protect Offshore NS, but also has a background in biology and climate science), Indigenous participation was a focus of our attention in the lead-up to the events. We had amazing grassroots leaders welcome us to unceded ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaw Nation, and hope that engagement around offshore protection will continue to strengthen. Michelle’s words in K’jipuktuk (Halifax) were an inspiration – check it out here at the 41:48 mark.

Meetings with municipal leaders stuck out to me. Elected representatives at a municipal level see their job as gathering information of issues that will impact their communities so that they can present an unbiased opinion. This is interesting to me because of the recent example Antonia shared that just across the border, in fact in 13 US Eastern Seaboard states, the municipal governments were very involved in public opposition to offshore that resulted in Attorneys General writing a letter to the Trump leadership outlining reasons for opposition to the industry.

A snowstorm in Lunenburg made for a beautiful backdrop but messy roads for the tour stop there. (pictured l-r: Robin Tress, Antonia Juhasz, Colin Sproul, Angela Giles)

We organized this tour in part because the whole process for approval of the offshore leases, environmental assessments, and industry overall has felt very concentrated in terms of participation in decision-making. The people of Nova Scotia, from what we saw, have not been made aware of the risks of the industry. Given the approval structures currently in place don’t prioritize public engagement and enable corporate or industry control of the messages being heard by the general public, this is not surprising; I hope this tour has inspired many more to fight for our voices to be heard in what could have an even bigger impact on us than fracking.

Organizing committee for the tour: (l-r) Marilyn Keddy, Marion Moore, Robin Tress, Angela Giles. Missing: Andrea Harden-Donahue

Supporting the South Shore chapter initiative, the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS), is what brought us to this point. CPONS has been working on this file for the past couple of years – raising awareness about the industry and concerns, sorting out strategy and legislation and decision-makers, participating in other coalitions like the recently-formed Offshore Alliance (focused on regulatory changes at a federal level) and another about FORRI (Frontier and Offshore Regulatory Review Initiative, a project of Natural Resources Canada). Shout out to CPONS and the South Shore chapter for all of their amazing work! And in particular, Marion Moore and Marilyn Keddy who were so critical to organizing this successful tour. <3

For more information,

  • read Robin’s blog from Day 1 of the tour here;

  • check out twitter #ProtectOffshoreNS here;

  • watch the livestream of the Lunenburg event here.